The final installment of the Boston Globe‘s investigative series on the violent life and death of Aaron Hernandez explores a possible connection between the head trauma he suffered as a professional football player and the impulsive acts of aggression that found him on trial for murder twice in his short life.
As CrimeOnline reported last year, researchers at Boston University’s CTE Center found that Hernandez had the most severe case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) ever seen is someone his age. Hernandez was 27 when he took his own life inside his jail cell just days after he was acquitted of double murder.
The new report in Boston Globe showed the intense secrecy surrounding the examination of Hernandez’s brain. The brain was transported to the research center through an underground tunnel system. Only three people at the facility were aware that Hernandez’s brain was being dissected. And the head researcher, Dr. Ann McKee, refuses to discuss the project.
“The only thing she won’t talk about is Aaron Hernandez,” Boston University spokesperson Maria Pantages Ober told the Boston Globe in response to a request for an interview.
And although there is no question that Hernandez suffered severe damage from multiple concussions, it may never be possible to determine definitely how much of the disease might have contributed to his behavior, though many experts appear to believe there is some correlation.
Two lawyers co-wrote a New York Times op-ed arguing that Hernandez never should have been convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd.
“We now know there was substantial evidence that Mr. Hernandez should not have been convicted of first-degree murder,” J. Amy Dillard and Lisa A. Tucker wrote.
“Given the conclusive diagnosis of Stage 3 CTE, it is likely that a lifetime of playing football — not Mr. Hernandez’s will — was to blame.”
That conviction was pending an appeal at the time of Hernandez’s death, and subsequently vacated.
Only one other NFL player with CTE is known to have committed an act of mortal violence. Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs fatally shot his girlfriend before killing himself in 2012. But given that CTE can only be diagnosed after a patient has died, it’s possible that some players could be at a higher risk than anyone is aware of.
“Aberrant behavior could be present because of a number of potential factors, one of them being CTE,” Dr. Vernon Williams, a sports neurologist at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles told the Boston Globe, “but I don’t know a way of teasing that out in retrospect after death.”
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[Feature image: AP Photo/Elise Amendola, Pool]